French in a Flash: Provençal Calamari Salad with Tarragon and Mint

RECIPE: Provençal Calamari Salad with Tarragon and Mint
Provençal Calamari Salad

Provençal Calamari Salad

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

This is a recipe of unsung heroes: calamari (calamars in French) and tarragon. I can still remember my first encounter with the thing that is calamari. It was in a spooky old cliffside restaurant near Woodstock in upstate New York. Up until that point, my only knowledge of squid was the sculpture of the giant one in the whale room at the Museum of Natural History. The crispy rings and tendrils were a revelation: crunchy, salty, chewy, briny, and even sweet in that delicate and tender way peculiar to seafood. That was twenty-one years ago, and I’ve eaten calamari at least once a week since.

Calamari is all you could every ask for: It’s cheap, it cooks in seconds, and it goes with anything, a Proteus that assumes and absorbs the flavors, and even sometimes the hue, of whatever you are cooking. And yet, for all their virtues, their ease, their inexpensiveness, they are still evocative of expensive seafood dinners, and generally bring an ooh or ahh from expectant eaters.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad
 

French in a Flash: Apple Celeriac Rémoulade with Crab

RECIPE: Apple Celeriac Rémoulade with Crab
Apple Celeriac Remoulade

Apple Celeriac Remoulade

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I’m continuously surprised that what seems outlandishly exotic in one region is a quotidian afterthought in the next. Think of fennel in Italy and France, and its recent revelation here in the States. And celeriac, or celery root, is one of the humblest, earthiest, and most common ingredients in France, only to be elevated by nostalgic chefs at their Paris corner restaurants.

Celeriac has the texture of something between an apple, yuca, and jicama—tender, crisp, and decidedly root-vegetable in its heartiness. Its taste is fragrant celery, more like celery seed or celery salt than the leafy-headed green tops peeking up from the vegetable bin. It’s crunchy, moist, and grassy for its pallor. Most of all, it is fresh.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, French in a Flash, Individual, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad
 

The Secret Ingredient (Chamomile) Part III: Chamomile Rice Pudding with Tea-Soaked Golden Raisins

RECIPE: Chamomile Rice Pudding with Tea-Soaked Raisings
Chamomile Rice Pudding

Chamomile Rice Pudding

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Chamomile is the comfort tea, built to settle any stomach, or any mind, at the end of a nervous, over-stuffed day. And to me, nothing is more comforting than rice pudding. This dessert plays with both chamomile tea and dried chamomile blossoms, both of which imbue a mellow floralness that counteracts the sweetness of traditional rice pudding. It’s creamy and studded with golden raisins rehydrated in a mug of chamomile tea, and sweet, sticky, floral honey. Instead of sweet, pungent, and heady vanilla—traditional in rice pudding—this version is subtle and dressed-down.

Chamomile Rice Pudding with Tea-Soaked Raisings
serves 4 to 6

Chamomile Rice PuddingIngredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons of dried edible chamomile flowers
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup cream to finish (optional)
  • Honey

Procedure

Start as though you were making a risotto.  In two separate pots, heat the water and the milk.  Place the chamomile flowers (not the tea bags) in the water, and allow to steep for at least ten minutes.  Strain the flowers out, and return the chamomile water to the pan to keep warm.

Melt the butter in a wide pan with sides over medium low heat.  Add the rice, and stir to coat, cooking for just a minute in the butter until the rice turns translucent.

Use a ladle to add the water bit by bit to the rice, adding more only as it is absorbed, and stirring continuously.  Once you have used all the water, switch to milk, and continue to stir.

Meanwhile, brew a cup of chamomile tea with the tea bag.  Place the golden raisins in the tea to rehydrate.

Once most of the milk has been used, and the pudding has reached a thick, porridge-like texture, add the sugar, and stir it in to melt over the heat.  Add the pinch of salt as well.

Take the pan off the heat.  Stir in a splash of cream to finish, and serve hot, in separate bowls or ramekins.  Strain the golden raisins out of the tea, and top the pudding with them.  Serve with honey alongside.

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Categories: Desserts, Eat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Pistou-Crumbed Creamed Spinach

RECIPE: Pistou-Crumbed Creamed Spinach
Pistou-Crumbed Creamed Spinach

Pistou-Crumbed Creamed Spinach

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

It amazes me how I’ve managed to become a tourist in my own hometown. As I prepare to fly back to New York after months abroad, I’ve found myself doing what any other red-blooded visitor to New York might do: making reservations at steakhouses for a good New York steak—specifically Peter Luger, to which I’ve shamefully never been, and BLT Prime. And as I longingly sit in front of MenuPages pondering what I’ll order, I realize the thing I’m looking forward to the most is just a supporting player: the creamed spinach.

It’s been one of my favorites since I used to pile it on top of hamburgers as a little girl. Reassuringly, conscientiously vegetal, there is a Popeyed redemption in creamed spinach. But then, there’s that comfort of Maman’s gratin—bubbling, luscious. In my world, the steak just plays second fiddle.

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The Secret Ingredient (Chamomile) Part II: Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon

RECIPE: Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon
Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon

Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I’ve had my nose in a book for the last week studying for a looming macroeconomics exam, and I finally found out something interesting. Do you know who said “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” Milton Friedman.

But I have a hard time believing that Milton Friedman knew anything particularly meaningful about lunch.I think with a bit of creativity, you can get something for (almost) nothing. Take this recipe, for instance. I bought a 1 1/2-pound pack of lean, very thinly sliced pork loin chops for just a couple of dollars. Everything else, flour, salt, pepper, lemon, olive oil, I had at home. I saw a pack of dried chamomile flowers for a matter of cents, threw them in the basket, and went to pay.

For just a couple of dollars, I was able to make something simple and hearty, but still exciting and different. The chamomile that’s worked into the flour atomizes its signature mild summertime scent as it hits the sizzling pan, and the elusive floral taste peeks out from the plate. It’s subtle, but unique, and a simple way to tuck a touch of thought into the everyday fast and furious parade of meals. I serve this with bright lemon wedges, and a simple tossed salad of pea shoots and green herbs, tossed with shallots, sea salt, olive oil, and a spritz of citrus. And even if I paid for my pork chops, I still feel like a got that injection of restaurant frivolity for free.

Chamomile Pork Chops with Lemon
Chamomile Pork Chops with LemonIngredients
  • 3/4 lb. thin-cut pork chops
  • 2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers, ground
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Light olive oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.

Use a clean coffee grinder to make chamomile powder of the dry flowers.  Then, mix it into the flour.

Dredge the pork chops in the flour-chamomile mixture.

To a sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat, add enough light-tasting olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.  Sear the dredged, thin pork chops until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes total.  You do want to make sure you cook the pork all the way through.

Serve on a plate with lemon wedges, and a fresh salad of green shoots tossed with olive oil, sea salt, and a splash of lemon juice of verjus.

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Categories: Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

French in a Flash: Dijon Chicken

RECIPE: Dijon Chicken
Dijon Chicken

Dijon Chicken

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There is a saying in our house: “Il n’y a que Maille qui m’aille.”(Loose translation: “Only Maille works for me!”) It’s a slogan of the venerable French mustard house Maille that my stepfather mutters at every meal on his journey from table to fridge, right between where he picks up his first bite and where he realizes there’s no mustard. He slathers it on bread, on pasta, on fish, on meat. He is indiscriminate, and I have come to learn that the American stereotype of putting ketchup on escargot can be just as frankly reversed, as I have seen him anointing the most American of meals—hot dogs, French fries, grilled cheese, and even Kraft mac and cheese—in Dijon mustard.

So it was a great moment last summer when I emerged from the Metro in Paris and looked up to see a veritable Maille museum and shop. The shelves were like those from an estate library, and behind glass, brightly lit, were mustard jars, hand painted in the traditional fashion, selling for no small price. There were flavors ranging from the ubiquitous cassis, tarragon, and honey, to walnut and bleu and clementine. And mustard sputtered from great brass taps.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipes, Series
 

The Secret Ingredient (Chamomile) Part I: Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc

RECIPE: Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc
Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc

Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

This month’s secret ingredient—chamomile—is not so secret. I have it in my house every second of every day, and I’d bet you do too. But I began to wonder lately, sipping my late-night cup of chamomile tea, if I had unfairly pigeonholed the dainty dried blossoms into a boring, single-task existence. In business school, we learn that it can be beneficial to a company to shape tasks around an individual’s talents, rather than vice versa, and while chamomile was highly efficient at calming my stomach and my nerves after a stressful day, I wondered what else it could get up to. After all, I had just seen a bunch of them on sale at the florist, little daisy-like buds that recalled summer hillsides, and I couldn’t believe thatthose were chamomile! In my mind, chamomile never existed outside of a tea bag.

Chamomile comes from the Greek meaning “earth-apple,” apparently, according to Wikipedia, because it grows close to the ground and has an apple-like scent. I think such a moniker is unfair—there is nothing in the world that smells or tastes like chamomile. It is delicate, like the flowers I spotted at the florist, but also intensely, almost Victorian-ly virginal and innocent. Not too heady, like some flowers, and certainly not sweet or fruity. It reminds me of primer, a perfect base that grounds everything under and over it, seasonless and timeless and suspended in comfort. (I do, you may have guessed, love the stuff.)

This week I put the whole dried flowers to work in a beurre blanc. Beurre blancs are both velvety and tangy, and I wondered if the chamomile would matte-ify its pervasive acidity. It did, bringing a certain mellowness into a stubborn, old, and tangy sauce. The sweet scallops are the sugar to the chamomile beurre blanc tea, as the sauce pools in ravines of the seared, splintering, cliff-face scallops. It’s fancy, but quite easy, and brings a sort of restaurant tinkering to the home hearth.

Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre Blanc
serves 1 to 2

Seared Sea Scallops with Chamomile Beurre BlancIngredients

  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and cold, plus 1 tablespoons
  • 4 large sea scallops

Procedure

Begin with the beurre blanc.  In a medium saucepan, place the shallots, vinegar, wine, and chamomile.  Bring to a low simmer, and evaporate the liquid until it is just gone, on a low flame, careful not to let it go so long that the pot burns.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.  Sear each scallop on the first side until it is golden brown and then flip over, about 5 to 6 minutes in total, until the scallop is firm, opaque, and just cooked through.

Once the reduction is “dry,” either keep the flame on very low heat, or take the pan off the heat altogether, using the residual heat from the pan to melt the butter.  Whisk in bits of butter a few at a time, whisking continuously, so that as the butter softens, it does not melt, but stays opaque and emulsifies.  Strain the sauce.

Plate the scallops on a bed of beurre blanc.  Garnish with some fronds of chervil and a few dried chamomile flowers.

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Categories: Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient